Goldmine in body-piercing, dealers told

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The Independent Online

Body-piercing might be the height of fashion for pop stars and clubbers, but for the beleaguered gold industry it could be nothing short of salvation.

The World Gold Council (WGC), the body charged with promoting its sale, has latched on to body jewellery as the way to pep up flagging sales.

Its chief executive, Haruko Fukuda, is urging the pin-striped members to abandon any prejudices and to treat people who like to pierce their bodies as potential customers.

"I suspect that many of us are not great fans of the habit of many of the world's young people to stick bits of metal in their noses, ears, tongues, navels and elsewhere, but we must have enough humility to believe that everything can teach us a lesson - if only we can understand it," Ms Fukuda told the WGC annual meeting in London yesterday.

In other words, if Scary Spice and Zara Phillips, the Princess Royal's daughter, can be persuaded to pierce their bodies, so can anyone. "While some say they don't want that sort of custom, I think we want everybody's custom," she said.

Total demand for gold across the continent fell 11 per cent in 1999 as sluggish economic growth combined with the launch of the single European currency to depress consumer demand. Although last year was a record for the gold industry in terms of global demand, this was mostly thanks to a record surge in nations such as India where gold is seen as an important sign ofprestige and a hedge against economic hardship.

The price of gold sank to a 20-year low last year when Britain announced plans to auction off more than half of its 715 tons of reserves. But many analysts believe gold lost any real role in the modern world more than 30 years ago. Ms Fukuda said that the industry had to "strive to make gold relevant" again and seek to convert those for whom gold is a "dinosaur relic of a bygone era".